Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Holy Smoke

Pope Benedict XVI used an address at a Roman Catholic university in the Vatican City on this past weekend to reiterate his criticism of scientists whose quest for knowledge leads them to stray morally by conducting research into areas, such as embryonic stem cells, that he said value discovery over life.

The Pontiff is a firm believer that progress only comes through divine intervention. If God wants it, the big guy makes or takes it. If not, pray for help or rain.

Benedict used the address to warn universities:

“Universities can reveal the fruitfulness of truth,” he said. But “the contemporary world,” he continued, “seems to give pride of place to an artificial intelligence ever more dominated by experimental techniques and thus forgetful that science must always defend man and promote his efforts towards true good,” according to excerpts of the speech posted on the Vatican’s Web site.

Then the pope called up an analogy that, 10 or 15 centuries ago, would have been unheard of for a pontiff to utter. Benedict, a former theology professor, likened the wayward scientists to Icarus, the figure in Greek mythology who fell to his death in the sea when arrogance led him to soar too close to the sun on high-tech wings of his father’s design.

Icarus, “carried away by the joy of discovery,” paid the ultimate price for “his illusion,” Benedict told his listeners at the Pontifical Lateran University. Professors, he said, have “the task not only to investigate truth, ... but also to promote knowledge of every aspect of that truth, defending it from reductive and distorting interpretations.”

Distorting interpretations like male, only priests forced into a life of celebacy are somehow given a free pass for fondeling little boys. Or, that homosexuality is abormal and there is a cure out there, maybe from those non-believer professors or reseachers.

I'm not sure as to how the Icarus analogy would have been "unheard of" 10 or 15 centuries ago, especially since Greek scholarship was the basis of a sound education for persons of all faiths in the West at that time, and the myth would have been in common usage.

That aside, I'm glad to see you endorsing the primacy of science over theology, that ethics are merely secondary to the truths discovered through scientific inquiry. It's interesting to note, then, that you must also approve of the Tuskegee Experiment, where great leaps in the study of syphilis were made by the American government.

With that, you must also approve of the methods of Dr Mengele, who did groundbreaking scientific inquiry on the limitations of the human body.

Yes, indeed, putting limits to what can be discovered by the potential of science is the worst thing we can possibly do to our society.
It is important to note that limits need to be set on all research. That is, ethics can be and are breached in all types of research- scientific, theological or otherwise.

Researchers are famous for pushing their own agendas under the premise 'science' or as you say 'truths'. But what truth can be found in the doctrines and writings of the church that are not significantly more subjective than 'science' or that research which operates under the guise of being scientific.

Also, stem cell research may not have any confirmed use, but how is scientific research valuable if it is not tested and retested.

Finally, it would be most important to ensure that proper checks are in place to insure that exploitative measures are not being used in the harvesting of eggs- thus if you choose to dispose of and not keep said cells, proper checks should be in place to ensure that this happens. Some are fearful of illegal harvest but these ventures can take place in any medical setting.
True truths, to be sure.
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